Atmosphere

Review: Earl Sweatshirt – I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside

Despite the huge buzz and heavy praise that has surrounded him through his brief career so far, it has taken me some time to appreciate the artistry of Earl Sweatshirt, outside of his appearance providing the hook for Frank Ocean’s “Super Rich Kids”.  However, when the news came that he was releasing an album entitled I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside, I knew I would have to be tracking down a copy; the last time the mere mention of an album title had me scrambling like this, Atmosphere had just released When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold, and that became one of my favorite hip-hop albums of that year.  Much like Atmosphere’s record, I Don’t Like Shit is a deeply introspective and reflective album, though it is a much darker musical journey that is distinguished by its grim and spare production.

Earl’s often extremely laid-back flow can make a codeine user appear as hopped-up as a meth addict, but on many tracks the deliberateness of his delivery helps emphasize his lyrics.  The album begins on a bright and playful note with the intro “Huey”, but this mood is quickly replaced by a more ominous tone that haunts the rest of the record.  Earl creates drum tracks that are heavily processed to emphasize unnatural tones, and the eerie synths and other industrial touches recall early Wu-Tang solo records.

Considering the often bleak subject matter, Earl wisely restricts the running time on I Don’t Like Shit, wrapping up the album in a concise fashion in slightly less than half an hour.  Lyrics deal with death, anxiety, depression, and the emptiness of fame in a frank and honest manner, but the album avoids merely dwelling in misery.  Though it is dark, I Don’t Like Shit is never oppressive, which makes it easier to digest over repeated listens.

Earl’s ability to maintain a strict standard in his editing is something that his fellow Odd Future mate, Tyler, the Creator, needs to learn.  His latest, Cherry Bomb, starts off promising enough, with its nods to N.E.R.D.’s catalog that are fun and engaging, but the album slides off the rails by the end.  It is certainly an improvement over the practically unlistenable Wolf, but Tyler still has trouble harnessing some of the potential seen on Goblin.  Tyler has shown some great talent with his production over the years, and I often prefer his particular delivery when he raps, but he continually falls into the same traps over and over again.  Experimentation can be exciting, but not every idea needs to be heard, and shock tactics result in diminishing returns.

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Best of the Rest: Other Highlights from 2014

Even with our expanded Best-Of list courtesy of The Process, there were still a ton of great albums released last year that were worthy of recognition.  Since we here at Rust Is Just Right are big believers in spreading all good music, we’re going to put a spotlight on some other great records that you may have overlooked from the past year.

Atmosphere – Southsiders.  At this point in their career, you know what you’re going to get with Atmosphere, and for occasional fans that’s perfect.  Slug still comes up with great one-liners, and Ant provides an intriguing, grimy production to back him up.

Biblical – Monsoon Season.  This selection is proof that good things can happen when you show up to see the opening act.  We first caught them when they were touring with Death From Above 1979, and we instantly fell for their version of heavy metal that takes the sensibility of Queens of the Stone Age and Mastodon and expands it out to include several rocking solos.  A prog version of Red Fang?  We’re there.

clipping. – CLPPNG.  These guys do a great job of pushing the boundaries of modern rap, though their experimentalism can get the best of them on occasion.  There are several instances on CLPPNG that the abrasiveness becomes oppressive, but then there are plenty of other times where everything coalesces and it just hits.  Throughout the record, MC Daveed Diggs showcased some of the best technique of the past year, displaying an impressive ear for rhythm and deploying some incisive rhymes, with “Story 2” serving as the most prominent example.

Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!.  This mixture of electronica, jazz, hip-hop, and R&B flows effortlessly from one track to the next and always keeps your attention.  Kendrick Lamar’s appearance on “Never Catch Me” is the highlight, but there is a lot of fun to be had throughout the album.

King Tuff – Black Moon Spell.  A unique mix of glam rock and lo-fi indie, the best moments of this album are some of the most fun rock’n’roll released last year.

Mastodon – Once More ‘Round the Sun.  Mastodon continues to evolve and refine their sound, reining in some of their tendencies towards excess with more concise songs but still adventurous enough to seek out some crazy riffs and solos.  In this way, Once More serves as an efficient composite of their previous albums, but also features some of their catchiest riffs yet.

The Roots – …And then you shoot your cousin.  The Roots are so consistently excellent that they are practically the Spoon of hip-hop.  Their latest concept album was overlooked and underrated, and though it suffers from a diminished presence from Black Thought, the record still works even if it leans on more traditional R&B than rap.

Slow Bird – Chrysalis.  They show a good ear for slow builds and pretty melodies, and  one can hear the foundation for future success.

Tweedy – Sukierae.  Who would have thought that Jeff Tweedy and his son Spencer would make a good team?  This side project has enough of the charm of his main gig in Wilco, while also offering enough of an alternative that makes it a worthwhile effort.

Walter Martin – We’re All Young Together.  This is the third solo album from a former member of The Walkmen released last year, but since the intended audience was for children there were much lower stakes involved.  However, this is one of those “kids albums” that is just as pleasant for adults, with its effortless easy-going charm.  If you play this for the kids, chances are they will grow up with good taste in music.

Also Worthy of Praise

Broken Bells – After the Disco; Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Only Run; D’Angelo and the Vanguard – Black Messiah; Deerhoof – La Isla Bonita; Eels – The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett; Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways; Parquet Courts – Content Nausea; Sun Kil Moon – Benji; Temples – Sun Structures; tUnE-yArDs – Nikki Nack.

All Albums That Were Considered

Here is a list of the albums that we listened to last year, in full.  Most of these were quite good and worthy of repeated listens, but they just could not crack the previous lists.  The good news is there were no absolute stinkers this year, though some were weaker efforts from bands that had excelled in the past.

…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead – IX; Band of Horses – Acoustic at the Ryman; The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Revelation; Circulatory System – Mosaics Within Mosaics; Cold War Kids – Hold My Home; Coldplay – Ghost Stories; Crosses – Crosses; Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots; Dum Dum Girls – Too True; Ghostface Killah – 36 Seasons; J Mascis – Tied To A Star; Jack White – Lazaretto; Karen O – Crush Songs; Kasabian – 48:13; Kevin Drew – Darlings; The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers; Philip Selway – Weatherhouse; Pixies – Indie Cindy; Thee Silver Mt. Zion – Fuck Off We Get Free We Pour Light On Everything; Thurston Moore – The Best Day; Tokyo Police Club – Forcefield; We Are Scientists – TV en Francais; Wye Oak – Shriek.

The Mid-Year Reassessment; Or, “We Should Probably Mention These Albums”

Our primary goal here at Rust Is Just Right is to spread the love of good music, generally through a careful and informed examination of precisely what makes certain music “good”.  We like to think we’ve done a fairly good job of this, through detailed album and live reviews as well as features like “Feats of Strength”.  But even with our best efforts, we haven’t been able to share all the great music we’ve heard so far this year.  So, we’re going to put a twist on a standard practice of most other music publications: instead of posting a Best of the Year (So Far) list, we’re going to list albums that we love but for some reason or another haven’t given the proper attention.

Albums from bands that deserve more recognition, but this wasn’t the one that would put them over the top:

Tokyo Police Club – Forcefield

We Are Scientists – TV en Francais

Album from a band that we didn’t really appreciate before, but really liked their new stuff

Wye Oak – Shriek

Great album from a band where we know the drummer

Slow Bird – Chrysalis

Great Hip-Hop albums we love, but we really suck at writing about Hip-Hop

Atmosphere – Southsiders

The Roots – …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin

Great Heavy Metal album we love, but we really suck at writing about Heavy Metal

Mastodon – Once More ‘Round the Sun

Album that we meant to review as part of a larger feature, but haven’t yet

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Only Run

Album that is so great that we’re kicking ourselves for not writing about it sooner

Sun Kil Moon – Benji

Over the Weekend (Apr. 14 Edition)

Tomorrow is a big day for Rust Is Just Right, because we’ll be releasing our long-awaited list of the Best Albums of 2013.  We’ll explain why we chose that particular day for the big reveal tomorrow, but just be content knowing that the day will finally be here.  Meanwhile we have a selection of videos to help you ease into the week.

Last week, Queens of the Stone Age released a music video of their latest single, “Smooth Sailing”, featuring Josh Homme on a wild night of partying with a group of businessmen.  As the old saying goes, beware of what karaoke may bring.  Now’s a good time to familiarize yourself with the song and the rest of …Like Clockwork, because we’ll have a review of their live show later this week, and QOTSA will certainly make an appearance in tomorrow’s Best Of list.  You could check out their performance at Coachella from this past weekend as well; Pitchfork has their performance as well as many others, so they’re worth checking out.

Eels also released a music video last week for “Mistakes of My Youth”, the lead single from the upcoming album The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett.  The full album is also available for streaming on YouTube, ahead of its release date next week on the 22nd.  It seems the band has stepped back from the happier, livelier sound of Wonderful, Glorious to a more delicate, winsome sound that E has favored on recent albums, but long-time fans of the band should be pleased.

Atmosphere just released a music video for “Kanye West”, their latest single from their upcoming album Southsiders.  It’s a fun Bonnie & Clyde story, with an unexpected couple, with a cameo from Slug as a cashier.

Yesterday saw an unexpected release from the Deftones, as they released a track from the Eros sessions in memory of their departed bassist, Chi Cheng, who died a year ago on Sunday.  “Smile” was the first song we’ve heard from the sessions, which were put on hold after Cheng had gone into a coma after a car accident.  Though Chino Moreno had himself posted the song, the record label took it down because of copyright issues; we’ll see how long the link I’ve posted lasts.

We also got a brand new track today from The Black Keys, who posted the title track to their upcoming release Turn Blue today.  It’s a groovy ballad, reminiscent in my mind of their cover of “Never Gonna Give You Up” and featuring that trademark Danger Mouse bass.

And finally we have Sigur Rós performing a cover of the song “The Rains of Castamere” for the Game of Thrones soundtrack.  While the song is nice, I get a bigger kick out of the band dressed up in costume for the show itself.  I can’t wait to catch that scene when it airs.